You are on page 1of 62

Abstract: As my main goal of the proposed research is to settling down dispute regarding minimum wages in Garments Industry, I wanted

to know if a change in focus from minimum wages to living wages could be achievable. The question will unfortunately remain unsolved at the end of the essay. To predict the future would be impossible. Instead three possible scenarios are presented. The likelihood of each and every scenario is later discussed. The conclusions at the end of the essay are based on an analysis of the theories presented and the interviews proceeded. The starting point of my research is the relocation strategies of corporations, which are outlined in the background chapter. This chapter also contains information about the garment industry in Bangladesh. The main research question is if there can be a shift from minimum wages to living wages in Bangladesh. In order to bring clarity to the question, three sub questions have been used. The first question looks into: How wages are determined in the export-oriented garment industry in Bangladesh ? The second question: Concerns the corporations responsibility for their workers. The third, and last: Question addresses how cultural dimensions influence the corporations and how wages are set? To find the answers to the sub questions I divided the research into four main topics: Wages Minimum and Living Wages, Morality, Ethics and Business Ethics, Employees as Stakeholders of the Companies and The Cultural Dimension. The topics are dealt with in separate chapters.The chapters contain a theoretical overview, as well as the information gathered from the interviews. The chapters are followed by a further analysis of the empirical findings. The chapter on wages contains an in-depth explanation of the difference between minimum wages and living wages. In the conducted study all workers were paid the minimum wage in coherence with the law. This wage was however much lower than what the definition of a living wage declares. Therefore many workers did over-time in order to reach a higher standard of living. Business ethics and the stakeholder theory will be used to discuss the opportunities and limitations of the responsibility of the

corporations for their workers. Bangladesh has a high ranking in power distance, a low ranking in individualism and a middle ranking in masculinity. These three dimensions will be discussed; both correlations and exceptions found in this study will be presented. The three possible scenarios for a change are presented in the conclusions. Firstly, the minimum wages could be changed into living wages, if the government decides on raising the wages of the garment workers. Secondly, the mentality amongst management could provide a solution to the change in focus. If managers could find advantages in paying their workers more, it would open up for a brand new wage system. Thirdly, changes could come from the workers themselves, through unification in the regard. This has however been valued as less likely to happen, because of the power distance prevailing in the country.

Acknowledgements:

My writings has been highly influenced by Iktedar Ahmed {Former Chairman of Minimum Wage Board & my university Teacher} who considers organizational theory as a literary genre. He emphasizes the importance of presenting the material in an interesting and exciting way. Special thanks to my Uncle Mr. Jabed Helaly [ Managing Director of Arttex Sweaters & Sourcing ] for helping out by his practical experience in this field. Many thanks goes to cousin Ashik for helping out on taking interviews & photos.

I can not ignore the contribution of my friends and family, who have supported me by inspiring on the way of writing such a brief research paper with in within 15 days. Maintaining time was difficult for me as I was continuing 7 course including this Research Monograph.

Abbreviations:

BGMEA- Bangladesh Garments Manufactures and Exporters Association BKMEA-Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association CSR-Corporate Social Responsibility -Euro EPZ-Export Processing Zone EU- The European Union HR-Human Resource IND-Individualism LTO-Long-Term Orientation MAS-Masculinity MFA- Multifibre Arrangement PDI-Power Distance Index SGSF- Sammilito Garments Workers Federation TK- Taka; currency in Bangladesh UAI- Uncertainty Avoidance Index

Preface: Since independence, the economy of Bangladesh is dependent on agriculture as most of the people live in rural areas. The goal of the government policy is to reduce poverty by receiving the maximum output from agriculture and attains self-sufficiency in food production. Beside agriculture, the development of export sector is under greater consideration. Exports from Bangladesh have both grown and changed substantially as time goes on. After the birth of Bangladesh, jute and tea were the most export-oriented sectors. But with the constant threat of flooding, declining jute fiber prices and a significant decrease in world demand, the contribution of the jute sector to the countrys economy has deteriorated (spinanger, 1986). After that attention has turned to the role of manufacturing sector, especially in Garment Industry.

My research concerns concepts of minimum wage and living wage, and the difference between the two. The research question, however, has developed over the course of the investigation. Now my main interest was whether there could be a change of focus in the garment industry in Bangladesh from minimum wages to living wages. I was also interested in finding out how this change could be implemented, and who in that case would lead the way - the local government or the companies themselves? I searched hard for the appropriate literature on the topic, trying to prepare for the task. However, I was shocked. All my expectations were shattered and all assumptions I had made although I tried to avoid making assumptions were turned upside down. I realized I had to change my approach, and disregard some of my assumptions, in order to reach any answers to my research question.

The practical difference between living wage and minimum wage turned out to be more complex than I had predicted. I soon realised how the specific question of raising the garment industry workers wages was part of a larger question concerning wages in general and connected with processes within companies and governmental decisions. My new findings led me to a greater understanding of my original question. The different stages I have gone through whilst conducting this research will be reflected in the essay.

1 Research Overview

The Research overview consists of a background to the subject and the study.

1.1 Background The background gives the reader an introduction to the subject. The first part brings the subject of relocation strategies into the light. The second part gives a picture of the garment industry in Bangladesh.

1.1.1 Relocation strategies

Relocation strategies mainly take place in mass production sectors, which requires relatively simple technologies and low-skilled labour force. Most European countries belong to the outward relocation, while Asian countries primarily are the ones where the production moves to. Comparing Western Europe with both Eastern Europe and China shows how the latter are characterized by a lower level of trade union involvement. (Carley 2006, p.21; 35) Carley further says:

However, actual cooperation with trade unions in the foreign countries concerned is not always required in order that unions in outward-relocation countries take an interest in working conditions at the destination locations. (Carley 2006, p.37)

The report mentions an example, where an UK trade union reached an agreement with

management and contracts signed by multinationals, such as codes of conduct, global agreements and international framework agreements. These contracts all concern various aspects of workers rights and other areas related to corporate social responsibility. (Carley 2006, p.37)

Relocation strategies have a connection with minimum wages not only because the level of costs for labour, but also because of the degree of regulation. Hence, there is a tendency to move production to less developed countries. In some aspects the development is positive for the country where it moves to; in other aspects the move is less positive. It brings jobs and economic activity, but the employment conditions can be poor. It is a question of maintaining the countrys attractiveness without compromising the levels of worker protection or wages. (Carley 2006, p.19)

1.1.2 The garment industry in Bangladesh

Bangladesh started to produce goods for the export-oriented market in 1977. The production today mainly takes place in area in and around Dhaka and Chittagong. There are 2 million workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh. 70 % of the workers are women. In knitwear,

the division of labour looks different. 43 % of all workers in knitwear are men, which gives them a higher share of those positions than the average within the industry. In the mid 1970s more private initiatives were taken. Amongst other were EPZs established. By then, export. promotions were of highest priority. Later on, in the 1980s, the policies changed and became more favourable for both the domestic and foreign export-oriented industries. (Murayama 2008, p.68-69)

When the multinational companies arrived to Bangladesh they had a catalyst role. They brought technology and know-how into the country. This made Bangladesh a competitive production base. Bangladesh was attractive to multinational companies because of its availability of cheap labour. Besides, during the initial phase of the MFA, Bangladesh was quota free. The US did however keep quotas against certain goods from Bangladesh. Consequently Bangladesh started to produce a larger range of products. The knitwear sector is one example of diversification. (Murayama 2008, p.69-70)

In a study made by Murayama (2008) the garment industry in Bangladesh was compared to the industry in Bangalore, in southern India. The research showed large wage differences, where the workers in Bangalore were paid almost twice as much as the garment

workers in Bangladesh. Moreover, the wage gaps between different kinds of workers, such as operator and helper, were much larger in Bangladesh. The research also showed that most female workers were paid in time-rate. In opposition to piece-rate, this is considered to guarantee higher quality standards. (Murayama 2008, p.80; 88)

The ready-made garment industry has given women in Bangladesh the opportunity to take part of the job sector. Bangladesh has been known for its gender disparities, but now the gaps are narrowing. There is an ongoing trend of feminization of workforce in the garment industry. (Murayama 2008, p.62)

1.2 The main research question to be addressed

Can there be a shift in focus in the export oriented garments industry in Bangladesh from minimum wages to living wages ? In order to find the answer to the main question I have used three sub questions. The sub questions will be used in the analysis. The analysis is followed by the conclusion, in which the main research question will be discussed. The sub questions are:

I. How are wages determined in the Bangladeshi export-oriented garment industry? II. Which responsibilities does a company have for its workers? III. How does the cultural context influence the wages?

1.3 Research objectives

The research objective is to find out the possibilities of a shift in focus in the Bangladeshi export-oriented garment industry from minimum wages to living wages.

1.4 Delimitations:

The research focus on the export-oriented garment factories visited; its managers and its workers. It is an attempt to understand the industry better and to get an insight into the mentality of the managers as well as the workers. The essay will mention other actors such as government, buyers and associations, but then only to serve the purpose of better understanding the industry, which these factories are situated in. It is, in other words, not an essay about Corporate Social Responsibility for Western companies, which has been an increasingly popular concept. It is neither an essay about poverty and structural problems in the Bangladeshi society.

From my material of interviews I have only chosen to use the interviews with the workers, the managers and Ms Iktedar Ahmed, who was a Chairmen of the Minimum Wage Board. The Minimum Wage Board was appointed by the government, who decides the wages at a state level. Since management is obliged by law to pay this amount it is of great

importance also at a company level. Moreover I made interviews with two employees in two different Swedish buyer companies in the country and two teachers at International School Dhaka. Although the interviews were of great interest, I have chosen to exclude them from my essay. The unselected interviews have however contributed to my understanding of the industry and helped me to gain a more holistic picture of the topic.

To delimit my research further I have chosen not to discuss the role of the two unions for garment factory owners, so called owners associations; BGMEA (Bangladesh Garments Manufactures and Exporters Association) and BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association). I found that the two organisations have an immense influence in the garment industry, for example in questions of wages. My main focus is however on the subject of management. Even if BGMEA and BKMEA influence the industry as a whole, I wanted to find out which changes could be done with a focus on company level. For the same reason no representative from the government nor trade unions have been interviewed.

1.5 Definition of Concepts Wage -The word wage is confined to the earnings of labourers and

artisans. (Strouds Judicial Dictionary, see Ahmed 2007 p.119)

Salary- The word salary is used for payment of services of higher class. (Strouds Judicial Dictionary, see Ahmed 2007 p.119)

Minimum wage -The lowest wage that an employer is allowed to pay by law. (Hornby 2005)

Living wage -A wage that is high enough for somebody to buy the things they need in order to live. (Hornby 2005)

Garmen- A piece of clothing. (Hornby 2005)

Industry-The production of goods from raw materials, especially in factories. (Hornby 2005)

1.6 Outline of the essay The story of wages does however start even before I went to Bangladesh. In the background, an explanation to why production of garments takes place in countries like Bangladesh was given with the relocation strategies. A short introduction of the garment industry in Bangladesh gives an additional background to the study. The research question and sub questions were then presented, as well as research objective and delimitations. The method used is then explained, followed by the theories and results. The theory/results part is divided into four chapters, each and every one with a specific topic. After the chapters, an

analysis is delivered. The part called conclusions takes the main research question back into focus and opportunities for a change are discussed. But first, back to how it all started.

2 Method: In this chapter the different choices of method will be further explained. The focus will be on the methods for the empirical study.

2.1 Research approach Abduction is a third alternative to the classical induction and deduction methods. My essay has been highly influenced by Barbara Czarniawska (1999), who considers organisational theory as a literary genre. She emphasises the importance of presenting the material in an interesting and exciting way. According to her, writing about management could be compared to writing a detective story. I have tried to capture this mode of thinking in my essay. My intention is that the essay could be read as a book. To strengthen this idea I have chosen to call the introduction my preface instead of calling it introduction. The discussion has been renamed to postscript. The theories and results have not been separated as such. I choose to integrate those parts and call them chapters in my, so called detective story. Czarniawska (1999 p.15) states how the narrative way of knowing is close to the tradition of

empirical research, also known as case studies. She gives an explanation to this narrative way of knowing:

The narrative mode of knowing consists in organizing ones experience around the intentionality of human action. The plot is the basic means by which specific events, otherwise represented as lists or chronicles, are put into meaningful whole

I have instead tried to focus on the meaning of wages: what types of wages are prevailing, why a worker should get paid and how it is influenced by cultural factors. I have, in other words, through my essay tried to put wages into a meaningful whole.

2.2 Selection of respondents

2.2.1 The factories

Consequently all factories in the study are suppliers to Swedish retail companies; Matrix Sweaters, Garaib & Garib ,Arttex Sweaters& Zastex. My uncle Jabed Helaly recommended these factories in particular, as good factories to visit. One of my contacts made an effort trying to get three different levels of standard on their chosen suppliers, in order to give me a greater spreading of the material. I do however presume that all of the factories visited represent a higher standard than the average factory in Bangladesh. My motivation to this is firstly that my contacts had made the choice of showing these specific factories. They were all main suppliers to the buyer company, with whom they had a close cooperation. Secondly, the factories are suppliers to large Swedish and international companies, who have been put under a lot of medial pressure lately. My understanding is that before a buyer company

chooses its supplier, they make careful investigations, in order to avoid using a supplier which has shortcomings in the codes of conduct formulated by the buyer. Thirdly, the workers themselves described how they moved to these factories in particular. Some of the reasons for changing to the factories visited were good rules and regulations, problems at earlier workplace and closeness in distance to factory.

2.2.2 The interviewees I have chosen my uncles Arttex Sweaters factory & his friends 5 factories as dont have to maintain any time limitation & condition.

A worker, in Factory D, says she doesnt know about any governmental grading system and nor of any factory system for wages. She says the wage increases every year because of the prices on goods increase and also house rent increase every year. I ask if they have meetings for this and she says: management has meetings with supervisors. The supervisor makes a list and then informs workers. The list contains information such as name, card number and how much they will get.

When I speak to another worker, in another factory, she informs me that there is a Participatory Committee in that factory and she is a member. She says if the workers have problems the Participatory Committee will inform management about it. I ask what kind of problems and she says for example sometimes workers need leave, but cannot go to higher authorities. Then they can inform her and she goes to a supervisor with the problem.

Another worker at the same factory knows about the committee. She has never talked to any member of the committee, only seen the photographs of who they are.

2.3 Collecting data

I choose to collect data through interviews. The procedure is described in this chapter.

2.3.1 Choice of interview method

With my choice of method I wanted a strategy for not only finding the answers to what I was looking for, but also for gaining a greater understanding of the industry and salary setting in Bangladeshi garment factories. Because of the cultural difference I excluded the use of surveys at an early stage, since it would only give me the answers on questions that I consider important from my point of view. There is also a tendency of people giving the answers that they think you want. Another problem with written surveys is the high rate of illiteracy in Bangladesh. I therefore decided semi-structured interviews would be the best way to proceed.

In my first interview I used a recorder, but faced some of the problems mentioned earlier. There was a great focus on the recorder and it took a long time to transcribe.

Besides, background noises during the interview made it hard to re-listen to the interview. I therefore decided to precede the rest of my interviews without a recorder. This way, I could fully focus on the interview listening, talking and taking notes. The note taking and the use of an interpreter, gave me extra time to formulate follow-up questions. At the same time as I could easily discover which questions remained unanswered.

2.3.2 Interpreter

As I am a Bangali from Bangladesh, I never required interpreter except Manirum Chakma, who helped me on taking interviews of worker from Chittagong Hill tracts.

2.3.3 Quantitative vs. qualitative method

A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods can be used in the same study and is then called multi-methods. There are two advantages with using a multi-method approach. Firstly different methods can be used for different purposes. Secondly it provides the possibility of analysing the material through triangulation. Triangulation is the use of different data collection methods to see if it gives a similar result. (Saunders et al 2000, p.9899)

In my study I have used both quantitative and qualitative methods. Altogether I made 9

interviews, which were all of a qualitative character. Each interview lasted around one to two hours and open questions were asked. Moreover the 4 interviews with the workers were used for analysing the data quantitatively. One rule within research is to use a minimum number of 30 respondents for statistical analysis (Saunders et al 2007, p.211). For those interviews I additionally asked questions which could be analysed in quantitatively, such as basic wage and knowledge of grading system. The information gathered then provided me with the possibility to calculate for example average wage amongst the workers. Conclusively, different methods were used for different purposes. The triangulation in my case consisted in discovering trends amongst all workers, in order to give a better picture of the situation, also when only one voice was quoted.

2.3.4 Handling of data

The managers in the factories are named Mr Barkat, Mr Chowdhury, Mr Dilawar, Mr Edrisa and Mr Faridi. Where anonymity is hard to guarantee, because of a revealing statement, I have referred to the person only as a manager. The workers have been kept totally anonymous to protect their identities. Ms Nazma Akter is the only person from the interviews, who has chosen not to be anonymous. She was part of the Minimum Wage Board, a committee which had the task to revise the wages in the garment industry in 2006. Ms Nazma Akter, as well as the managers and the workers, will

become more familiar to the reader throughout the four chapters.

3 Chapter I: Wages Minimum and Living Wages

When asking the question of how wages are determined in the Bangladeshi exportoriented garment industry, a more in-depth chapter on different kinds of wages is needed. The first chapter will focus exclusively on the different types of wages. Wages can be determined at different levels. Minimum wage is an example of wage, being determined at a state level. The minimum wage is however only a guideline for what a company should pay its worker at the least. Other concepts in this chapter are collective agreements, fair wage and living wage. These concepts will be discussed throughout the chapter.

3.1 Wages

Valuing the work of an employee is not always an easy task. Different methods have therefore been developed for this purpose. Some countries use minimum wages, set by the government. Others have collective agreements as a base for regulation of wages. A comparison between the different systems shows the lowest collective wage to be at the same level as the highest minimum wage. Whether a country uses minimum wages or collective agreements,

wages can be decided at a more local level as well. Crane and Matten (2007) says the basis for determining fair wages normally is expectations on the employees and their performance towards goals. Two jobs in different businesses can however be very differently valued. Two criticisms against a performance-related pay is firstly that it results in a higher financial risk for employees and secondly that it individualize employee pay bargaining, leading to a weakening of joint employee power. (Crane and Matten 2007, p.291293)

3.2 Minimum wages

Bangladesh is one of the countries, which uses minimum wages. In order to understand and compare the Bangladeshi system, a presentation of minimum wage systems in other countries will follow below. The information comes from a report on the topic of minimum wages, which is done yearly by the European Federation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

The minimum wage rate is often set by the government at a national level. It is common that representatives of employers and workers have a say in the negotiations. The report mentions social partners, policy-makers and researchers as important actors in the setting of minimum wages. In Malaysia & Taiwan a committee called the Employment Relations Board makes recommendations for the government annually. The criteria for adjustment vary amongst

countries, but a frequent statement is cost of living. Other criteria, which need to be taken into consideration, are inflation and developments in average wages. Most countries adjust minimum wages on a regular basis. This is normally made yearly and in some countries even twice a year. Only China and USA have no fixed time of adjustment out of the countries investigated. (Carley 2006, p.5-7)

There can be differences in the minimum wages within the country. Some examples are regional differences (China), certain rules for employees under 20 years (USA) and differences by qualification (EU countries). (Carley 2006, p.8)

In Ireland, the unions consider higher minimum wages to increase employment; first by increasing spending power and secondly by guaranteeing basic levels for pay in low-paid sectors. In Japan, the unions want to lessen the gap between minimum wage and average wage within the country, which they use as an argument to increase minimum wages. (Carley 2006, p.14)

Employers, on the other hand, warn for the risks with increasing minimum wages. They consider increases as a threat to employment, especially for small and labour intensive businesses. In the USA employer representatives argue how an increase would destroy jobs, force small business into bankruptcy and reduce the opportunities for unemployed people to find work. Some representatives of the employers further argue that minimum

wages have a negative effect on the competiveness of industries. In Japan the minimum wage system is being revised in order to upgrade the meaning of minimum wages as a safety net to protect all workers from unreasonable wages. (Carley 2006, p.17)

3.3 Living wages

A living wage is often considered a new concept. In reality, the concept was already used in 1874 by a British labour radical. The labour radical stated that there should be a relation between wages and rights. The argument by then is similar to the arguments now: a just price for labor is never less than a living wage. (Glickman 1997, p.62)

Now as then, the concept is very vague. Glickman (1997, p.77) quotes a couple of explanations to the concept, as well as a researcher within the area, who talks about the transience of the concept. The substance of the quotation is: what today may be considered a living wage, in a couple of years may be considered a starvation wage.

Glickman makes a connection between living wages and consumption. He says ethical consideration seldom is relevant to a shopper and calls it irresponsible shopping. People want to receive union wages, but do not want to pay the union prices. One suggestion being argued

is if the minimum wages were made into living wages. (Glickman 1997, p. 127; 137)

3.4 Wages in the garment industry Wages in the export-oriented garment industry in Bangladesh are determined at two levels: state level and local level. First the minimum wage system in Bangladesh will be explained and then voices from management and workers will heard on their own wage systems.

3.4.1 Minimum wages in Bangladesh

The minimum wages in the export-oriented garment industry in Bangladesh was last reviewed in 2006. The former wages were based on a law from 1994, which leaves a gap of 12 years without revision. In 2006 the government of Bangladesh established a Minimum Wage Board consisting of six people with different backgrounds. The members were a chairman; one independent member; one member to represent the employers; one to represent the workers; one member to represent the employee connected with the industry concerned and one member to represent the workers engaged in such industry. The work of the Minimum Wage Board consisted of making a suggestion, which was later presented to the government. The government could then approve or dismiss the suggestion. (Ahmed 2007, p.128-133)

Akter1 was one of the members of the board, representing the workers engaged in the garment industry. She contacted other trade unions and organisations as she got the invitation to the Minimum Wage Board, in order to collaborate on the question. Finally they decided their proposition for the minimum wages to be TK 3000. After her proposition there was a lot of debate, training, seminar and dialogue with people involved such as buyer groups and government. To motivate their suggestion of TK 3000, they showed resource documents. The owners side also showed their documents during some intense negotiations. She explains the time of negotiations:

Everywhere we have meeting. At the government, at the NGOs, at the policy level EVERYWHERE! Even the international people, media, buyers, everywhere!

In 2006, the Bangladeshi government also introduced a new grading system for workers within the garment industry. The New Wage Scale is divided into seven grades: assistant operator (helper); general operator; junior operator; operator; senior operator; mechanic and controller/chief/master. Firstly, a basic wage is determined, based upon which position the worker has within the company.

After that a house rent, consisting of 30% of basic salary is added and medical allowance of TK 200 for all workers at all levels. The overtime premium is different in different grades, starting with TK 10 for the lowest grade and TK 36 for the highest position within the wage scale. Grade number 1 represents the highest income and grade 7 is the lowest. As a trainee in a company you are outside the system and get a minimum wage of TK 1200. A worker who has completed three months of training should be appointed to grade number seven. (Bangladesh Gazette 2006, SRO No 280)

Only one third of the respondents among the workers interviewed in Bangladesh knew about a governmental grading system. Three of them mentioned that they knew also which grade they belong to, six said no and one said maybe. Amongst the ones saying yes and maybe three out of four were right about their wage group.

[Iktedar Ahmed, Chairman of the Minimum Wage Board 2006, in an interview with Prothom-Alo 19th April 2008.]

3.4.2 Wage systems in factories visited

Mr Barkat tells how they came up with their wage system after analysing the salary structure of 8-10 other factories. He says the reason for having an own wage system is because they need to compete on the market.

Mr Dilawar says if the minimum wage is TK 1662, they pay the worker TK 1800. He says some workers on piece rate get as much as TK 15 000. Other workers on piece rate only correspond to a wage of TK 1500. Then they get the minimum wage of the factory TK 1800. Piece rate workers always get grade six or more. He says there are four different sections working on piece rate: trimming, linking, knitting and winding (the first stage). The fixed salaries are for the following sections: iron, cleaning, washing, trimming etc. These wages are determined according to production. The factors, which influence the wage of the worker are according to him time of employment and work output. He says productivity, attendance and honesty is of most importance. But first of all they have to ensure minimum wages are paid. He says workers do not move between sections, but that some are multi skilled. He explains this further:

If I [as a worker] can use three machines, my demand is higher. If a machine stops I can work with other machines. If [a worker] only know one machine that worker cannot work.

The difference is around TK 200-300 between the differently skilled workers.

Mr Edrisa thinks BGMEA should be more powerful and says if they were, they could implement a standard code of conduct for all factories. He thinks the BGMEA should not only work for the country, but also for the workers. He says a common standard should be set and gives one example. He mentions a company which does not allow 72 hours working week. This can be a problem during peak seasons. He says the buyers need the product on time, but sometimes make a change in design or style, which means the shipment will be delayed. He says the buyers are only asking for them to follow the minimum wages, which they also come to check. The buyers are not a part of wage setting, but they are interested in that the minimum wages are implemented.

A manager explains their wage system: if a worker is good, the supervisor will inform him. They have sheets for worker and he shows me an evaluation form for workers, where the following factors are mentioned: 1) duty and responsibility, 2) job knowledge and skill, 3) care and maintenance, 4) help and cooperation, 5) safety and security, 6) neat and cleanliness, 7) reliability and honesty, 8) temperament and behaviour, 9) punctuality and discipline, 10) motivation and training, 11) cost saving attitude, 12) supervision and control.

Mr Faridi says both the buyers and BGMEA check if they give enough according to

the grading system. He says they do not take personal conditions into account when deciding the wage of a worker, since this would have been discrimination. Instead he says:

We only see performance or work of worker. We dont consider if a worker is male or female or the physical condition of a worker. We only see performance.

3.4.3 Wages amongst the respondents

The average basic wage amongst the garment workers interviewed in Bangladesh was TK 27702 monthly, varying between TK 16623 to TK 37504. The average basic wage for men was TK 3000 and for women TK 2760. The three workers working on piece rate, two women and one man, had higher wages; TK 7340, TK 5000, TK 8018. All workers normally received an attendance allowance of TK 100- 400, depending on which factory they worked for. Including attendance allowance and overtime the average income for the workers last month was TK 40255. On average, this is an increase in income of 45 % for each worker, in comparison to their basic salaries. All respondents were paid in cash, Taka and monthly. None of the respondents reported on difficulties with getting paid in their current workplace. Twenty-six out of thirty workers had been subject to collective changes in their wages, while two

have had an individual change and three had the same wage as when they started working in the factory. The collective changes consisted of a yearly increase in wages. In some factories this was done at the same time of the year for all workers, while at other factories this was made in a year from the date of joining the company. Sometimes a change was made already after 6 months. In almost all cases the increase in wage was due to management decisions and in only two cases there had been an own initiative to the change.

One of the workers says he does not feel as if he has any power to influence his wage. He says his wage will remain the same, no matter how hard he works. Another worker points out the advantage with working over-time. Last month she worked 52 hours of overtime. She gets paid double pay during these hours, which leads to a significant change in wage. An example is last month, when she got TK 3879, whereas her basic pay is TK 2550. Yet another worker speaks of the advantages of over-time. She works 2-3 hours of overtime daily and last month she worked 45 hours in total. She says:

They [the management] tell us to do overtime. We also do overtime willingly, since 1900

Taka isnt enough

Another worker has a different experience regarding over-time:

If the company has pressure for shipment we have to work. We are not willing to do overtime. If management has pressure we have to work.

She does however think over-time is good, since it means more money, which she can spend on family and children. She spends her money on education of children.

Three of the workers get paid by piece rate. When paid by piece rate you have no basic wage; instead the pieces produced are the base for payment. Last month one of these workers earned TK 7340; including TK 200 for attendance allowance. She then did 100 h of overtime. She also works overtime on the only free day of the week, which means she sometimes works seven days a week. Another worker on piece rate explains how she got sick last month and on the question of if she received sick leave she says: No, I didnt get paid because I get paid by production rate. She says she works overtime 5 days week and that she normally does 5

hours extra, which means she does overtime from 5 pm until 10 pm. The third worker on piece rate says there are no changes in their wage the longer they work in the factory:

Piece rate is always the same 5 years ago it was the same. Everything is more expensive now, but the piece rate is the same.

3.5 Summary

Chapter I presented a more in-depth view on wages. It first explained the different concepts and types of wages. Wages could be determined by law, and then they are called minimum wages. Another wage system is collective agreement. The collectively agreed wages are in general higher than the minimum wages. An additional type of wage is performance related wage, which is close to a fair wage per definition. Yet another wage is the living wage, which should be a reasonable amount of money. The minimum wage system in Bangladesh was last reviewed in 2006, by a committee appointed by the government. The suggestion from the workers side was TK 3000. The new minimum wage was decided from TK 1662 and upwards. There was a lot of focus on the negotiation this time. The wage scale is divided in seven steps. Only three of the respondents knew which grade they belonged to.

All managers reported on paying at least the minimum wages to their workers. The average basic wage for the respondents was TK 2770 and TK 4025 including attendance

allowance and over-time. All of the workers interviewed worked over-time. One worker did however not do it at the moment, since she was pregnant. There were different opinions if overtime is voluntary or not.

Another system is piece rate. The results show that the piece rate workers interviewed earn more money than the ones with basic salaries. They do however also work more. Another disadvantage for the worker could be that it is harder to get paid if you are home sick. Since work is valued by productivity, lost hours are not compensated. One of the workers says the wages for piece rate has been the same the last 5 years.

4 Chapter II: Morality, Ethics and Business Ethics

Suppose a company is paying its workers the statutory minimum wage of the country. Then take into consideration that this amount of money is insufficient for the worker to make a living on. A question of responsibilities arises: Which responsibilities does a company have for its workers? The theory I found on this theme is about morality, ethics and business ethics. This second chapter serves as an introduction to a view of wages as something more than just a certain amount of money. After the theories have been presented, voices from

Bangladesh will be heard about their view on wages, training and policies within the companies

4.1 Business ethics in the export-oriented garment industry Wages within the export oriented garment industry in Bangladesh could be considered an example of dilemma between law and business ethics; financially and morally right or wrong. In the six factories visited, all managers insist on paying their workers at least the minimum wage, which the workers of the companies confirm. Some of factories additionally have their own wage systems. Still, one of the managers, Mr Barkat, says: The lowest wages are in the garment factories. Another manager, Mr Edrisa, thinks it is sufficient for a company to follow the minimum law. At the same time, he thinks the wages for workers are insufficient to make a living on and that the wage for a helper at least should be 3000 TK. He mentions all commodity prices has increased; says the wages should be higher, but then asks a rhetoric question of how it would be possible for them to pay more? According to Mr Barkat, the buyers pay less money per piece, while production costs are increasing. He says if buyers give a good piece rate it would be good for Bangladesh.

Nazma Akter6 was one of the members of the Minimum Wage Board in 2006. As the President of Sammilito Garments Workers Federation (SGSF), she got the trust to

represent the workers side in the negotiations. She says Bangladesh has a strong economy now, but that the workers situation is not that strong. The owners situation, on the other hand, is very strong. She is not interested when the money goes to profit, but when the money goes to salvage lives. I ask about the managements mentality amongst garment owners and if she has noticed any thoughts on paying a worker more in order to get more productivity back. Her answer is: Yeah, this is very good, if theyre following this policy, but it is very rare we have. Most of them are thinking: if they give pressure or if they give low wages, maybe they will get profit. But reality is not that, because if they are giving these wages [read living-wages], they [the workers] will be happy and get a better productivity. If you invest something, then you will get the profit. But our the Bangladeshi management they are always thinking: If I invest the money what is my benefit? Nazma Akter, Member of the Minimum Wage Board 2006, from interview 19th April 2008.

Another worker in another factory explains about a similar wage system of her factory. There is a grading and she belongs to B-grade. C-grade is a helper. She says new operators easier get higher wages. She has worked here longer than them, yet her wage is lower. She

says the reason for management to give new workers higher wages is dependent on the fear that the new workers can change for another factory easily. Therefore the company offers the new workers higher wages.

The same worker does a lot of overtime. She says she stays until 7.30 pm, which means 2, 5 hour every day. She says this factory doesnt want the girl to go out at night as an explanation for not staying later. She says management tells them to do overtime, but they also want to. Their basic wage is not enough for survive, so they need extra money.

5 Chapter III: Employees as Stakeholders

The theory of business ethics has introduced us to a larger picture of the term wages. The question of responsibilities of a company is however still not answered. There must be a better explanation in how to take responsibilities for the worker, than to follow a gut feeling. As I continued to search for more arguments I found the stakeholder theory. The theory will explain why an employee is important to a company and to which extent a company is responsible for a worker. The management in the factories visited then gives their different views on how to distribute the profits of their companies. Having a say in decision-

making is also a part of the stakeholder theory and in coherence with this, some factories have Participatory Committees. The workers shares different experiences on these committees.

5.1 The garment workers as stakeholders

One of the workers describes what he feels about the growing garment industry; he says It is very good, because it reduces unemployment in our country. More garment factories means that more unemployed people can work. Another worker agrees by saying: How workers will survive in our country without garment industry? There is lots of population, if no factories, how can we survive?

Mr Azad used to work in another factory at the time of the new law of increased minimum wages in 2006. He says the company where he used to work, was not affected by the new law on wages. His explanation to this is: What the workers get paid is not a question of equity of the company. They are two separate things. Mr Barkat has another approach. He explains that every company has a yearly target and that reveals their company target. If the company fulfil the target with 100% all workers get 100 % gross payment. This is a yearly bonus of one months wage. If a worker for example gets TK 2000 monthly, s/he will get TK 2000 extra

that year. If the target is reached by 90 %, the extra bonus will be 50 % of wage.

Mr Edrisa believes the workers will work better, if they pay them more. He further explains, if someone has a good position in the company, s/he will also give more attention and have more feelings towards the company. It would also be in the interest of the workers for the company to grow. He says the worker will feel This is my company and therefore I will work hard. He first states there is no system for productivity and wages implemented in the factory. Then he says it is partly implemented. He says the minimum standard always has to be paid and if a worker produces more he should obviously get paid more. He tells me about the opening of a new factory within the company group. This factory will be a model factory.

Mr Faridi says that he absolutely believes in a connection between wages and productivity. He further explains:

Workers always think about their wage and when they get wage. If they get wage irregularly, this will affect their work. In some factories they give overtime and attendance allowance on different day than basic wage. This affects work negatively.

6 Chapter IV: The Cultural Dimension

In the forth, and last, chapter I must move on to the next sub-question, which is: How does the cultural context influence the wages? Management and leadership cannot be isolated from other parts of its society. Chiefs and company leaders are, as well as the people they work with, a part of the nations society. The only way to understand managements and workers behaviour is to understand their society. In his study five different cultural dimensions are presented: Power distance Index (PDI), Individualism (IDV), Masculinity (MAS), Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and LongTerm Orientation (LTO). (Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions) I found three of these dimensions especially interesting for my research: power distance, individualism and masculinity. The two remaining dimensions will only be dealt with in figures. The three chosen dimensions will be presented with its own theoretical framework and observations. Finally, a comparison of Bangladeshs index to Pakistan, India and Sweden is presented in a chart.

6.1 Power distance in Bangladesh

Mr Azad says he does not feel as if he has the power to influence the wages within the company, but says this is natural. He also says they are all like a family working together and that

this is not a problem. He feels limited in his power to influence the wages, since they are decided by the top management. He does not mind this limitation however, since he says that the management is good. It is the managements decision and cannot be decided anywhere else within the company.

Mr Barkat says most of the workers in the company are paid in cash. Only ten people are paid through a bank account. The minimum salaries for officers are TK 30 000 for managers and TK 20 000 for assistant managers. Factory B has an own wage system, which they recently reviewed. Their system is based on an A, B and C ranking, where A level is the highest. When the wages were reviewed A+ level increased from TK 3300 to TK 3800. B level increased from TK 2400 to TK 2800. Also the starting salary was revised.

One of the workers says she does not feel she has any influence of her wage: I get salary increase every year, if I want more, how would it work? Another worker says there is a yearly wage increase in her factory and sometimes also in the middle of the year. The increase is a management decision and it is well welcomed, since the increase in wages is good for the family. She doesnt feel the need to talk to anyone about her wage, since the authorities (management) increase the wages regularly. There are, according to her, no

questions or discussions about wages.

6.2 Individualism

The second cultural dimension is individualism versus collectivism (IND). Individualism measures whether people in the country tend to think more individualistic or more collectivistic. In an individualistic society the ties between individuals are loose and everyone is expected to care for her/himself.

In individualistic societies incentives or bonuses are often linked to an individuals performance. In collectivist countries the management manages a group to different extents. How emotionally integrated a person feels in a group, depends from case to case. If the members of a group feel emotionally involved the bonuses should preferably be given to the group and not to individuals. (Hofstede 1997, p.65)

Bangladesh scores an individualism index of 20, which reflects a collectivist thinking society. Other countries with the same index are China, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and West Africa. India scores 48, Pakistan 14 and Sweden 71. (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005, p.91)

6.3 Individualism in Bangladesh

One of the workers in Factory C has a basic salary of TK 2500. Last month she earned TK 3000 including attendance allowance and overtime. She says their basic salary is not enough for survive, so they need extra money. She contributes with TK 1600 to her aunts family every month and the rest of the money goes to her parents. Another worker says he worked 50 h overtime last month and earned in total TK3500. When he earns more money, he sends more back to his family. None of his parents have a job. A third worker has another perspective of the system. She says she does not have to think about if the wage covers her expenses, since she lives in a big family and her salary only is a contribution to the family economy.

In one of the factories a new in-group has been formed. One of the workers tells me how some of the girls contribute with TK 500 each month and then create a lottery with the money. She herself is not a part of it, but she knows 5-10 girls who do it. She further explains: if 10 girls give TK 500 each this will be TK 5000 in total. Next month another one gets the chance to win the TK 5000. She says it is not possible for one person to win every month. If s/he wins one month she cannot win the next month again. In this way, she says: if I take TK

5000 I will repay the money and there will be a rotation of the money. She says if someone resents, the circle will be broken: some girls sometimes leave the factory and it will be problems.

Factory B has a bonus system both for the individual worker and the line as a whole. At the moment the target bonus only includes the permanent workers of the line, but a new policy will be taken, so that all workers in the line get benefits, also temporarily workers of line. The HR manager explains how this policy could build up a better teamwork in the factory. If somebody sees that someone is not working s/he has to inform to a higher instance. Every department has a chief/head officer and if this chief/head officer does not observe the situation, HR and administration will observe it. He thinks this can help to raise productivity within the company.

6.4 Masculinity

The third index is the masculinity index (MAS). MAS measures if the society reflects the traditional work role model of male achievement, control and power. A high ranking means a high degree of gender differentiation. (Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions) In a masculine

society social gender roles are clearly separated. In feminine societies the social gender roles overlap and feminine values are highly valued also among men. A typical difference between masculine and feminine societies is the attitude towards work. Where masculinity rate is high people tend to think more toward live in order to work, while a lower ranking is connected to an attitude of work in order to live. There is no relationship between how many women is working and femininity score. However, a connection between feminine societies and women at higher positions within technical and professional jobs has been proved. (Hofstede 1997, p. 82; 93; 95)

Masculine societies are performance related societies, while feminine ones are welfare oriented. Where feminine values (such as modesty and solidarity) are emphasised people are often rewarded on the basis of equality and need. Masculine societies are often more competitive in the manufacturing business. Production of large volumes requires things to be made efficiently and fast. The feminine societies have a competitive advantage in service industries instead. (Hofstede 1997, p.97; 93; 95)

Bangladesh has an index of 55 in question of masculinity (MAS). This gives Bangladesh a

middle position out of the 74 investigated countries together with India (56), the Arabic countries (53) and Pakistan (50). Sweden (5) has the lowest score out of all countries investigated. (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005, p.134)

6.5 Masculinity in Bangladesh

A worker in one of the factories says: if a man can work, also a woman can. A further opinion is that it is a safe job for women to work inside a factory, where they are protected daytime. A third opinion on the matter comes from another worker:

It is good; because we work for our family. It is good; because women can stand on their two feet. They can develop their family situation/condition.

Another worker thinks it is good that women are working and says there is no difference between male and female now, both are working. A male worker agrees that it is good, but has noticed a difference in treatment between male and female workers:

Everybody has to work, but many garment factories dont treat the women; they dont get good salary. All garment workers dont get satisfactory wage.

Mr Barkat guarantees that this does not happen in his factory. He emphasises how wage

negotiation is done without discrimination. He says that in some factories people are discriminated because of sex; and male workers gets more than female workers. One example of this is in another factory. The HR manager explains how wages are different in different sections. For example people working in the cutting and ironing section, which are riskier jobs and people working with jobs which require more technical skills get more salary. He says all of the workers in the ironing section are men. The workers in the ironing section gets around 200/300 TK/month more.

The Bangladesh Labour Law contains some areas of prohibition of employment for female workers. Women are not allowed to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of machinery while that part is in motion. Additionally no woman should be allowed to work between moving parts or between fixed and moving parts of any machinery which is in motion. Women are neither allowed to work with dangerous machines in general. This classification includes power presses other than hydraulic presses, circular saws and plate printing machines. (Ahmed 2007, p.62-63) Mr Chowdhury thinks it is good women are working and says he has had good experiences with female workers. He says women are patient and that the garment industry is light work, which is good for women. He says male are more excited, which is an

impossible combination for this work. Mr Faridi says Bangladesh depends on female workers. Female workers are doing well and the quality is good.

6.6 Bangladesh compared to other countries

To give a better picture of what the indexes represents, the index of Bangladesh are submitted in a chart with three additional countries: Pakistan, India and Sweden. Until mid 20th century Bangladesh was united with both India and Pakistan as one country called British India. In 1947 the countries were separated into India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan. In 1971 East Pakistan became a country of its own. This country is today called Bangladesh. (Sugata & Jalal 2001, p.165; 202) Thus I found it interesting to compare Bangladesh with these countries in particular. Swedens indexes can give a picture to the differences in thinking between the Bangladeshi factories and the Swedish buyer companies in the country. The chart is based on figures by Hofstede. (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005).

6. 7 Summary

Chapter IV has treated the different cultural dimensions in a society according to the theories

of Hofstede and his son. An organisation is inevitably affected by its surroundings and Hofstede has measured this with five dimensions. The Power Distance Index shows how power and money is distributed within the country. The companies in Bangladesh, which has a high index, are characterized by hierarchical structure. The HR managers feel limited in their decision-making, but find this natural. Also workers more or less accept their bottom position in this hierarchy. Bangladesh is a collectivist thinking society has the characteristics of such society: extended families are formed, as well as in-groups, income is divided within family and bonus has in one factory been proven to be better to give to a line instead of individuals. Masculinity index is close to an average number and is reflected by statements from the workers, saying that a woman can do the same job as a man. However, one worker points out, women sometimes are discriminated by lower wages.

7 Reflections

Four stories have now been told. The first part, about wages, will be of help in discussing how wages are determined in the Bangladeshi export-oriented garment industry. The two following chapters are about business ethics and stakeholder theory and can be used in discussing the question of which responsibilities a company has for its workers. The

last part was about the cultural dimension and how an organisation is affected by its environment. The theories and results from this part will be dealt with in question of how the cultural context influences the organisations visited.

7.1 How are wages determined in the export-oriented garment industry in Bangladesh?

Wages in Bangladesh are not an exclusive question for the company only. It seems to be part of a greater system; a network containing government, trade unions, buyers and associations. There are, in other words, a lot of factors, actors and mechanisms influencing the wages. First of all it is a matter of law. Minimum wages are set by a committee appointed by the government. There is no continuous work on this regard. The last time a committee was appointed was in 2006. Before 2006 the wages were previously reviewed in 1994, which leaves a gap of twelve years without changes. When compared to other countries, which revise their wages annually, this is a very long time. The country has also suffered drastic changes in increasing food prices. Only during the two last years the price of rice has doubled. When wages were negotiated in 2006 the workers representatives showed resource documents to motivate an increase in wages to TK 3000. Other forces were however stronger

and the committee settled for a minimum wage starting at TK 1662. According to Carley (2006), most countries use cost of living as a criteria for minimum wage. The calculations made by the workers representative in the negotiations in 2006, does however show that the garment workers in Bangladesh only were paid approximately half of this amount in 2006. Since commodity prices have risen dramatically during the last two years, the garment workers income would now be even less than half the cost of living. In comparison to the other countries, investigated in the EU report, the wages in Bangladesh are a lot lower. The income for the lowest group in the report was 77-251, while minimum wages in Bangladesh starts with 19 for the lowest grade.

The minimum wage grade system in Bangladesh makes distinctions between workers with different qualifications. It consists of several dimensions, such as house rent, medical allowance and different over-time premium, depending on which grade the worker belongs to. In comparison to other countries in Europe, this is an advanced system. The system favours a mentality of that the more you learn and the better you get at what you are doing, the higher the wage. On the other hand, it complicates the control and measurement of wages.

The grading makes it harder for audit firms, buyer companies and trade unions to evaluate if the minimum wages are implemented. If for example a normal operator is paid a wage for a junior operator, it could be hard to discover the abuse of the minimum wage law. According to my research, most of the workers do not know which grade they belong to. Only a few of them are aware of that there is a system and even fewer which grades they belong to. The lack of information and knowledge about the system makes it even easier to misuse the system by not paying the minimum wages according to law.

Apart from governmental decisions, wages are also a question of compliance and code of conduct of buyer. The buyers have to make sure their suppliers pay their workers at a minimum the wages decided by Bangladeshi law. If not, they cannot fulfil the social responsibility they market themselves to keep. Buyers find it hard to directly impact the wages of their suppliers. They are dealing with another company, which has its own set of beliefs and rules. The organisational culture is affected by its cultural context, which is often different to the buyer companys background. The buyers seem to be limited in their power, since they do not own these companies. They are able to put pressure on their suppliers to the

extent that the suppliers pay their workers the minimum wage according to law. But they cannot decide how another company distributes their economy. One way of influencing the industry for buyers, is through choosing suppliers with a well-functioning salary system. This way, they create a demand in Bangladesh for companies who pay their workers well and have a good internal wage system. Another way to make an impact is to be creative and find new solutions. One of the interviewed buyers has established a training centre, where they educate workers not only in sewing, but also in workers right. A worker, who has fulfilled this training will then start off as a grade 6 worker and initially have a higher wage than a complete new worker. According to the supplier using these kinds of workers, they will also be more aware of how to speak to management and how to influence their own situation. He calls it an empowerment process, where the worker takes command of its own situation.

Thirdly wages are a process within the supplier company itself. The way it works in the company depends a lot on the mentality of the manager in charge of these questions. An openminded and forward thinking manager might have some new ideas of wage systems, while most managers appeared to have quite a traditional way of thinking. An example of a forward thinking manager was Mr Barkat. Not only did his factory review other companies in

order to come up with a wage system, but they also have an external audit firm ordered by the factory itself. Their wage system included a bonus system, where workers were collectively rewarded when productivity was high. They also called in a meeting for all workers, as commodity prices increased. The average wage in this factory was TK 3290, which is about TK 500 higher than the average for all factories.

The workers are seldom a part of their wage negotiations. The most frequently answer I got when asking for their possibility to influence their wage was if I work harder I will get more. Some of them considered this a way of influencing their wages, while others rather seemed to think of it as a hopeless situation because even if they worked harder they would never earn enough to leave a life in poverty.

Some workers got paid by piece rate. In general they earned more than the other workers. There are however problems with piece rate. One worker reports on not getting paid, when being home sick. This highlights the dilemma of a tougher working situation for piece rate workers. Another finding was the piece rate workers did more over-time. Since working more shows results straight away, it can be attractive. Although in the long run

the worker and the factory can meet problems. Doing physical work for 12 hours a day would sooner or later affect the health of the worker. Besides, quality of goods can be affected by a stressful work situation, which would harm the reputation of the factory. Yet another argument was presented by the theorists, against a performance based wage system. Crane and Matten said that it individualizes the bargaining power and weakens the joint employee power. Maybe this is the reason why the piece rate wage has remained the same for one of the workers during the last 5 years.

7.2 Which responsibilities does a company have for its workers?

Theories about business ethics have been presented in order to discuss the dilemma on wages. On one hand a company is obliged to follow the law, by paying the minimum wages. On the other hand the minimum wages are not enough to make a living on. This seems to be a common belief, which even management in Bangladeshi garment factories admit to be true. One of the reasons is that the commodity prices have risen dramatically lately. Another reason is that there are no continuously changes in minimum wages. According to the theories, this is the point where business ethics should intervene. Where the law ends, business ethics should begin.

The next step is then to consider the possibility to make decisions which are considered financially wrong, but morally right in this case to pay the workers sufficient wages to make a living on. According to one of the managers it is impossible to pay workers more than their present wages. He identifies a trend, where their production costs are increasing and buyers pay less money per piece bought. He says a good piece rate price, paid by buyers, would make it possible for the company to pay the workers more. But more aspects should be considered before the final verdict. One of them is presented by Ms Nazma Akter. She says Bangladesh has a strong economy now. The garment factory owners have a strong situation in the society, whereas the workers situation is weak. My interpretation of her statement is that the industry in fact is blooming, but few of the contributors to the success are benefited from it, i.e. the workers.

This reasoning takes us further into the theories of stakeholders. Workers are in the highest degree a group of stakeholders: Their rights can be violated and has to be respected by the company; they can be harmed by the corporation but the question is if they get the benefits

from it. In the factories I visited all workers were paid according to minimum wages and in some cases even a bit more. Thus, the wage could be considered a benefit of the company. As some of the workers say; a lot of people would face an even harder reality if there was no garment industry. The stakeholder theory does however put higher requirements on the company than to only pay minimum wages. Meritocracy is presented as a solution in how to distribute benefits. Meritocracy could be compared with a performance based system, where benefits should be distributed based on relative contribution to the company. This is clearly not the case in one of the factories, where the manager says that the equity of the company has nothing to do with what the workers are paid. I question how much the workers are actually paid, if a raise in minimum wages not affects the company at all, as Mr Azad said. The statement reflects a reality where the amount of money paid to the workers is such a small part of the total income of the factory, that a raise of almost the double is not even noticed in the equity of the company. Another possibility is that wages in this factory were already paid at a higher level than the old minimum wage, but then the new level for minimum wages was nullifying.

regularly and at the same day. In this way the company takes a responsibility in reducing anxiety among workers. This gives the worker a feeling of safety and according to the manager it also pays off to the company. He explains how irregular wages affects the productivity negatively.

7.3 How does the cultural context influence the wages?

The society in Bangladesh is characterized by a high level of power distance, a low level of individualism and medium ranking on masculinity. The other parameters for Bangladesh according to Hofstedes cultural dimensions are more implicit and hard to analyse from only one session with each respondent. The text has therefore only focused on these three dimensions. The three dimensions give a picture of which cultural aspects are especially affecting the organisational culture in Bangladesh.

7.3.1 Individualism vs. Collectivism

A common phenomenon in Bangladesh is that earnings are divided between families and relatives. The interviewed garment workers has confirmed this, typically collectivist thinking, by explaining how part of their earnings goes to parents, aunts etc. The earnings are in other

words not only the business of the worker. In those cases, where the worker only contributes to the total income of the family, the system makes the situation of the worker economically easier. Most of the workers interviewed, do however seem to be in the opposite situation where they are the only earners of the family and their wage is supposed to support others as well, for example their parents. The economic pattern makes it complicated when calculating what a reasonable income would be for a worker. The earnings are not exclusively for the worker itself, but rather for the worker as a part of its context. A living wage is then hard to calculate. This is one of the reasons why living wage as a concept has been criticised for being vague.

7.3.2 Masculinity vs. Femininity

Bangladesh has a medium position on the scale of masculinity versus femininity according to Hofstede. This can be noticed through the statements made by workers, which says that a woman can do the same work as a man. One of the male workers did however raise the question of male workers being paid more. In one of the factories women are discriminated to work in some departments of the organisation the departments where most money is made.

In this case it was the ironing and cutting section, where only men worked. I also observed that almost all workers in the knitting section were men. In the knitting sections the workers normally work on piece rate. The piece rate workers were the ones who made most money in my research. Working on piece rate is therefore connected with a higher income, which mainly benefits men. A wage gap between women and men is however also a problem in Sweden, which has the lowest ranking amongst all countries in the survey. I argue the main difference is that women in Sweden have access also to riskier job, where more money is to be made, compared to Bangladesh, where they are prohibited by law to work in those sections. This makes the structure harder to change.

My research has shown that the mentality of the Bangladeshi people rather to be work in order to live, than live in order to work. I do however not make any assumptions that it is because of a more feminine way of thinking, but rather a question of the economic situation in the country. Most workers I met started working because of poverty and found work as the only way to survive.

7.3.3 Summary

The

phenomenon of sharing incomes with family members and in some cases extended family makes a living wage hard to calculate. Some workers only contributed to the family economy, whereas others were the main earners in the family. Having a wage, which is not enough to live on for one person, makes the equation harder when it is also to be shared amongst family members. Belonging to an in-group is important in collectivist countries, which is confirmed in my research. Often the garment workers got to know about the job through neighbours or family members. An in-group then provides a first contact with working within the garment industry. In one factory a new in-group was formed, possibly because of lack of loyalty to management. Through their new in-group they had found a creative way of affecting their monthly income, making it twice as big approximately once per year. In collectivist countries it could be an advantage to give incentives to groups instead of individuals. One of the managers had implemented such a bonus system in his factory. He also planned to extend it, in order to include also temporarily workers in the line. I believe the idea to be in accordance to the cultural context in Bangladesh and expect the system to be of great success, both in question of productivity of the company and satisfaction among the workers. The example also shows how meritocracy can be of use in distributing the profits in a company.

8 From Minimum Wages to Living Wages?

I can see three possibilities for a shift in focus from minimum wages to living wages. The first alternative is that the minimum wage becomes a living wage. Like in other countries the criteria for the minimum wage could be the cost of living. At the moment it is way below, which has been presented earlier. In this case the main actor for change would be the government. The government would need to call for a new committee to revise the present wages: review the cost of living, compare with other countries wages and takes aspects such as inflation into account. The new wages should be decided, taken into consideration the many years without a change from 1994 to 2006. The implementation phase would be a joint responsibility. The government should make their own inspections, but this alternative also provides buyers with more power to influence. Today, their argument is that they cannot put more pressure on the supplier than to require them to pay the minimum wage. If the minimum wage was higher, the buyers pressure could also increase.

Another option for a shift in focus which is a more correct answer to the research question

is that there would need to be a shift in mentality of the owners of the factories. If the factory owners find other ways of competitive advantages, than a price advantage to offer their buyers, they would develop a more sustainable way of making business. As the stakeholder theory presents, not only the customers are important for a company, but also its employers. If employers are treated well and paid enough to live a healthy life they can also work better and give a better productivity back to the company. The phenomenon of over-time seems to harm owners and workers more than it helps. What is considered a win-win situation does to me appear like the opposite. Overtime seems to reduce productivity and the workers get tired from working long hours. Also here does the buyer have an important role to play. There are already some informative programs, mainly made for workers, but which has also been used in training supervisors and line chiefs. If trainings could be held at a higher managerial level and not by an owners association new ideas could be implemented also here. There is already a notable change in mentality with the new generation of garment factory owners coming. Garment factories are often kept in the family and since a lot of the sons and daughters now have studied abroad a wider perspective is imported.

There is a third alternative as well. But I believe it less likely to happen. The third

alternative is a bottom-up theory, where the workers have a say in questions regarding their income. This could be a complement to the second alternative as a part in empowering the workers. But I find it hard to see it as an alternative itself. The reason for this is the strong hierarchical order in the country, which affects the organisational culture. As a worker you are at the very bottom of this hierarchy and as long as the mentality amongst the garment owners remains the same, they will lack power to influence their wages other than to work harder. This of course carries a lot of frustration along, which can be an explanation to why riots, violence and burnings of cars and busses is very common among garment workers in Bangladesh.

Postscript

Now, the answer to what I had discovered could simply be what is presented in this essay. That is however only part of the truth. The essay is the results of the clues I followed and the answers I found. The full picture will thus not be presented. The collected material grew larger than what I could possibly fit into only one dissertation. There are according to me, a lot of areas of interests, which were excluded in this essay. One suggestion for further

research is to look at the gender differences within the garment factories and/or within the area of wages. Another suggestion is to examine more areas within workers rights. Participatory Committees and their function would be a further exciting area to investigate. My interest for over-time also increased during my interviews; reasons for working over-time, decisions-making in questions of over-time, payment of overtime, consequences of over-time etc. I realised how important over-time was to the worker, as a part of the total income and how complex the question of over-time is, which awakes, at least, my curiosity.